As Stephen Harper jets off to Cannes, trumpeting his government's economic performance, someone should follow him with a copy of the latest Food Banks Canada Report. That report, which was released today, contains some very disturbing numbers:
More than 851,000 individuals visited a food bank in March alone, a number that’s little changed from last year’s record and still 26 per cent above prerecession levels.
And the picture gets bleaker:
The findings reveal that recipients span the spectrum. Nearly 100,000 of them are first-time users and one in five actually has a job or has recently been employed. More than one in ten are immigrants or refugees – many of whom are highly educated, and usage is growing among seniors.
The monthly numbers are not an aberration. According to Craig Alexander, chief economist at the Toronto Dominion Bank, they reflect long term trends:
While the number of jobs lost in the recession has been recouped, many new positions aren’t as well-paid as the former ones. Wage growth has not kept pace with inflation. Globalization, outsourcing and technological changes have eliminated many middle-skilled, middle-income jobs. And displaced factory workers are having trouble re-entering the work force.
Worse still, the present government doesn't want to see these trends. It has worked hard to sweep the numbers under the rug:
The federal government no longer produces national welfare statistics, and not all provinces publish their social-assistance caseloads. Unlike the U.S., Statistics Canada doesn’t publish how many unemployed people run out of EI without finding work. And the agency’s data on incomes is published with a two-year lag – meaning the last national indicator on poverty rates is from 2009.
The gap between the poor and the rich is widening, a recent Conference Board of Canada paper found. It said income disparity has risen more rapidly in Canada than in most of its peer countries, including the United States, since the mid-1990s.
Mr. Harper won a majority claiming that, for Canadians, things were getting better. The Food Banks Report makes clear that his claim was cynically untrue. This government is allergic to facts. It's also allergic to the poor. It simply refuses to see them.